After all the talk about promotion and relegation, poor attendances and the national team been unable to beat Australia, I feel that one of Rugby League’s real problems is the way it is presented on Sky.
The game in Europe is often compared to the NRL, I feel we have a great on field product but we could learn a lot from how they present their game. While watching the NRL, Ray Warren often gives us nicknames for players, such as “The Polar Bear” for Ben Hannant and “Billy the Kid” for Billy Slater. While these are not the most amazing nicknames, they add an extra level to the player. Surely the Sky presenters could come up with a few names for players, either their own nicknames or ones the commentators have gave them. This has worked well in sports such as darts, would Phil Taylor be a household name without his “Power” moniker? Most successful boxers have a nickname such “Hit man”, “Iron”, “Cobra”, “Money”, the list goes on.
The Super League of Extraordinary campaign was a good start, so why do the commentators not refer to the players by those names given to them in the campaign. For example Gareth the hit man Hock or Leroy the cobra Cudjoe sounds a lot better, especially to children and makes the players stand out from the crowd.
In the NRL there are a number of sponsors that pop up through the game, such as the Keno replay and the bookmaker that comes on to give the match odds before the game. Why can’t we attract sponsors for this, we could get William Hill or Betfair to have a spokesman telling us the match odds and there must be a company in the U.K willing to sponsor the Video ref and other segments of the show.
The commentary needs an overhaul, Eddie Hemmings and Stevo should function as the shows hosts. A commentator needs to be found, similar to Martin Tyler in football or Ray Warren. Let them tell us about what is happening, not endlessly argue about the rules or what the ref is doing wrong. We should be told the history of players, what clubs they played for, their junior teams, injuries they have suffered, how fast they are, how strong they are in the gym etc and so forth ( to quote Stevo)
There should also be a couple of players to give us expert analysis on the game, how the players will be feeling and thinking. The NRL does this particularly well with Darren Lockyer and Brad Fittler, Andrew Henderson does this well on Premier sports. Someone like Ellery Hanley or Paul Sculthorpe would be good in this role, true greats of the game.
Finally I feel the game should be portrayed as the epic sporting contest Rugby League at its best is. It should be made to seem dramatic, the players are warriors risking it all for their teams, awesome skill levels and the athletic abilities of the players should be what we are consistently reminded of. The contest should be talked up constantly, how tough the game is, the injuries, such as Paul Woods testicle injury should be highlighted again and again to show how tough these men really are, especially when compared to footballers. The history of the game should be celebrated, past players and highlights of great games between teams should be shown before the match to build anticipation.